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Jan 30, 2010 07:23 PM

How to get the Freshest Mussels

We love mussels but nothing spoils a feast of these like biting into a bad one! (I know, I don't eat the ones from the closed shells, but bad ones still turn up)

How long do mussels keep after being processed? I was at a Sobey's on Jan 28 and was able to look at the labels on the mussel bags - some were processed on the 14th and others on the 20th. But I think the PEI mussel producers web site refer to 7 days' shelf life. Sobeys should know about mussels, being a maritime company. To be honest though these were on a cart and I don't know if they were being put out or withdrawn from display.

At many places you can't even see the labels on the bags or they have them loose. I notice that a lot of places have them sitting in ice water, even though the PEI mussel producers warn against this on their web site. Apparently they need good drainage. And how about those strange packages with plastic film stretched them - are they still good packaged in that way?

Does anyone know more about this, or where we can consistently get the freshest, plumpest mussels? (west end - mississauga, oakville)

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  1. I would head to a fishmonger, be it in SLM or at Pisces, Bill's, Avenue Road Seafood, Pusateri's, Diana's, whatever. You want a place that keeps mussels in saltwater in a tank that keeps the water moving. This is your best chance at getting mussels that are alive and well. There's nothing worse than nasty mussels. I tried buying a couple of kilos from my local Zehrs once. Never again. Most were dead. I threw mine out after fighting with a few shells and being disappointed with the few that seemed open on their own. My SO stubbornly tried to make the best of the decent-looking ones and was mildly ill overnight.

    I live in Windsor and most of the mussels come from the US. They are generally terrible. Whenever we go out to Italian restaurants and I want to order pasta with seafood, I always ask them not to include the mussels and just give me extra squid, shrimp, scallops or even sauce instead. I don't even want them cooked with the other seafood ... and I LOVE mussels. I recently had a great pot of them at BeerBistro. Not a bad one in the lot. A couple of shells were broken, but the mussels inside were still fine. I definitely got the impression that the kitchen staff pokes through and removes any that don't look good.

    1 Reply
    1. re: 1sweetpea

      This from

      PEI rope cultured mussels are chilled quickly after harvest, and may be stored alive in their shells for about a week.

      • Do not transport or store mussels in water or in direct contact with melted ice.

      • To ensure maximum shelf life, store rope cultured mussels at just above freezing (1 – 2 degrees C) and cover with a damp cloth.

      • Mussels prefer airy packaging. Do not store live mussels in closed containers or plastic bags.

      • Do not rinse mussels until you are ready to use.

      • The mussels will leak a small amount of liquid each day, which must be drained off regularly or the mussels will drown. For this reason avoid direct contact with ice.

    2. P.E.I.mussels are a commodity, and arrive here with a government label stating the origin, harvest date, and stale date.Too bad the OP didn't link to a site claiming just 7 days shelf life. The P.E.I. government tags on the sacks of mussels I see, packed on ice, are two weeks. The shrink wrapped mussels are even longer as the right amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide is packed inside.
      The freshest P.E.I. mussels with good turnover should be at Costco, in Burlington or Windsor.
      In GTA Diana's or Bill's would be similarly fresh. But frankly. I have little problem at Sobey's or Loblaw (with a reliable fish counter) when I look at the stale date on the P.E.I. label.

      1. I've bought really great mussels at Seafood Depot (Steeles and Weston Road area). They're kept in water-filled bins and you scoop your own. I suspect the largely Italian clientele and the quick turnover contributes to the freshness of the product. The mussels are plump and out of a gigantic bag (yes, I overbought so I had to invite friends for dinner) I only discarded maybe 3 or 4 that had cracked shells. The rest were great.